Winter is coming, and with it, a swath of truly revolting weather. From freezing rain to blizzards to mountains of slush that refuse to melt until June, nobody can say that Chicago is an enjoyable place to live, work or drive in the winter. Luckily, there are some new cars on the market that can at least take you safely and stylishly from Point A to B … if not somewhere warmer entirely. (Just head due south until you reach Miami. We’ll see you in the spring.)
The latest edition of the Land Rover Range Rover Sport vehicle has been well-received: Between the powerful V8 engine, a diesel option and the new “Terrain Response” system, this car will carry you safely through even the nastiest winter weather. In addition to the necessary four-wheel-drive (4WD), the Terrain Response system has five preset driving modes, including one for snow (“Hill Descent Control”) that helps maintain a constant speed and can apply the brakes to one wheel at a time down snowy slopes. If you were so inclined, you could absolutely take this vehicle off-road.
This 4WD SUV is a time-honored favorite of those who like to get their money’s worth. The 2016 update has a new eight-speed automatic transmission for better acceleration, and new safety features include a “collision avoidance system” capable of detecting pedestrians, plus blind spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems. The car also features heavy-duty suspension components, a limited-slip differential and a two-speed transfer case with low range to tire slip and increases your traction when it gets icy in the long winter months. Plus, the car comes outfitted with tires rated for mud and snow, which means you don’t have to shell out extra to change them when November rolls around.
For those who just aren’t into SUVs, Audi comes to the rescue with their all-wheel-drive (AWD) A5. Aside from the fact that it gets excellent ratings from outfits such as Kelley Blue Book, the A5 is also unequivocally steeped in luxury. The 2016 model has a Bang and Olufsen sound system, and if you upgrade to the S5, you receive a supercharged V6 engine plus keyless entry and ignition for your troubles. The car is built on a sturdy aluminum frame, and the low-slung body means there’s less of a risk for rolling over on icy roads.
This 4WD SUV stalwart is built to go off-road — no two ways about it. But now, it’s also built to help keep you on it — between the Rain Brake Support that engages when the windshield wipers are in use and helps keep the brake pads dry for better stopping power, the Ready Alert Braking system that automatically applies pressure to the brakes if you quickly take your foot off the gas pedal, and a host of other all-weather options, this one could take you through the nastiest of blizzards. Additionally, it comes standard with 17-inch on/off road tires, and some models offer the option of upgrading to 18-inch Goodyear All-Terrain Adventure tires for extra grip. Basically, this is the car you pick if you want to haul an entire hockey team up the side of Mount Everest.
Another sedan option, the TLX comes in either front-wheel-drive (FWD) or AWD — either one is a decent option for snow handling, but we tend to lean towards the latter. The upgraded TLX brings advancements in fuel efficiency and safety and what Kelley Blue Book calls “terrific driving dynamics and smooth performance.” Plus, the 2016 offers something called Super Handling All-Wheel Drive, features torque-vectoring control to make each turn as precise as possible. This is a very nice bonus when it comes to making turns on slippery streets.
This sleekly designed AWD SUV replaces the GLK and challenges other midsize SUVs in its class — it’s not only bigger in every way, but also powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and comes standard with collision avoidance, Crosswind Assist that keeps the car upright in heavy winds (key for blustery Chicago winters), keyless ignition and a Dynamic Select control that lets the driver switch between various drive modes. And importantly, it stops quickly: A review from Edmunds said the Sport package’s summer tires and bigger brakes stopped the car from 60 mph in just 116 feet.
It might be easy to overlook this sedan in between all of the other luxury options out there, but that would be a mistake. Though the AWD doesn’t come standard, the updated Q50 not only features three new available engine options but revised steering and suspension tuning and improvements to the Direct Adaptive Steering system as well. It also brakes quickly, going from 70 mph to 0 in 165 feet, a useful feature when it comes to navigating a slippery Lake Shore Drive.